Indigenous journalism fellowship recipient has Northern Manitoba roots

Damian Frazee first got interested in making videos as a teenager who was into photography, skateboarding and music.

Now as the recipient of the fourth-annual Canadian Association of Journalists/APTN Indigenous Investigative Journalism Fellowship, he is taking his self-taught skills and applying them to TV documentary production.

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A member of York Factory First Nation, Frazee has spent the last few years working as a locations production assistant and camera assistant trainee on various productions in Winnipeg after taking parts in CBC’s Indigenous New Voices program. But as someone who was a fan of documentaries and stories based on real life since he was young, Frazee is excited to have the opportunity to learn about broadcast journalism.

“I want to get out of this world and do the other world, the media and finding stories and telling truth and telling real stories,” he said.

Frazee pitched an investigation about the lack of funding for youth programs and facilities in Winnipeg and in other Manitoba communities. He will work on the story during a 12-week paid fellowship with APTN Investigates in Winnipeg, the first Indigenous investigative news program in Canada. At the end, he’ll have an investigative documentary that will be showcased at the CAJ national conference in Montreal May 29-31.

APTN executive director of news and current affairs Cheryl McKenzie says the fellowship can be an incredible opportunity.

“It’s kind of like the fast-track to professional journalism and we’re always interested in getting more voices out there and to give people opportunity who wouldn’t necessarily have it that quickly,” she says, adding that APTN’s executive director of investigative news Paul Barnsley is an excellent mentor for a young journalist. “He’s totally that old shoe-leather journalist kind of guy. He does share a lot of wisdom that he’s gained over the years.”

CAJ president Karyn Pugliese, who was APTN’s executive director of news when the two organizations started working together on the fellowship, says its a good way to help Indigenous journalists display their skills on a national stage, noting that two of the previous recipients are now working full-time as Tv journalists and another is a fellow at Yale.

“You come out with a great pieces at the end of it,” Pugliese says, while McKenzie notes that it might be difficult for the CAJ to help place an inexperienced journalist into such a role at another national broadcaster. 

Frazee, whose mother is from Thicket Portage and who has an uncle living in Thompson, says the paid fellowship is just what he needs, as a father of four kids.

“I do need to pay the bills still,” he says. “It’s hard to go to school to get to your dream goals. This is the best opportunity for me to see if I’m capable of doing this career. It’s nerve-racking. I feel like I have a lot to prove. I’m just really excited for this and hope I do good. The pressure’s on but it’s good pressure.”

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